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City launches Intergenerational Homeshare Pilot program

September 28, 2017

Elderly Commission

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Elderly Commission

The pilot provides affordable housing to graduate students while assisting local homeowners and increasing community stability.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced today the launch of the Intergenerational Homeshare Pilot, a collaboration with the Elderly Commission, the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab, and nesterly, a local social enterprise working to make existing homes work better for today's households. The Intergenerational Homeshare Pilot will match households with a spare bedroom to students who are seeking an affordable place to stay during their studies, as well as an opportunity to engage with the local community.

This pilot program is a goal from Mayor Walsh and the Elderly Commission's Age-Friendly Boston Action Plan, which aims to encourage age-friendly development along with alternative housing options by exploring the creation of an Intergenerational Homeshare, matching older homeowners with extra rooms to rent with people who need to rent a room. The pilot currently has eight pairings, and will run through December to determine the impact, feasibility, and resources needed to potentially scale this initiative into a City-wide program.

"Boston is home to a growing number of seniors and students. We know that many of our older residents want to stay in their homes -- but need companionship and some simple home maintenance," said Mayor Walsh. "By matching established adults with extra space with students who are eager to engage with their communities, we're creating an innovative housing pilot that provides more affordable options for everyone."

Seniors are the fastest-growing cohort of Boston's population, as outlined in the Walsh Administration's housing plan: Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030. In addition, AARP reports that nearly ninety percent of older households want to age in their homes and communities, but face challenges with social isolation, declining incomes and home maintenance.

national report by the Trulia housing economics research team estimates that there are more than 3.6 million spare bedrooms in the homes of U.S. Baby Boomers in metropolitan areas that have the potential to be rented out. More than 38,000 of these rooms are located in Boston. The study also demonstrates that graduate students could potentially save up to $24,000 annually by renting a room rather than a one-bedroom apartment.

With the current demographic shifts and the need to increase affordable housing, the City and nesterly are collaborating to bring the innovative housing solution of intergenerational homesharing to the City of Boston. Demand for the program has been strong. Working in collaboration with local organizations and universities, nesterly received more than 80 applications to participate in only three weeks. nesterly then worked closely with the host and guest applicants to help them find housing opportunities that would go beyond logistical matching to create stronger community relationships. To date, eight successful matches have been made across Boston and surrounding towns through a newly developed website that helps hosts and guests easily connect with each other and agree to a mutually beneficial exchange.

"It's going great!" said Brenda Atchison, one of the first participants in the program. "The City and nesterly were so thoughtful, and matched me with a wonderful architecture student from Greece. I'm an empty-nester, and Phoebus brings a presence into my home that makes it feel so much more alive and full. We're cooking dinner together; I'm showing him Roxbury's beautiful architecture. Not only am I learning from him, but I also like being able to feel as though I'm helping in another way -- his PhD program might have been a reach if he had to pay for a room alone, but now there is another alternative."

"As our population ages, we need creative housing solutions that will support older adults' wellbeing and engagement in their communities, as well as help those who wish to remain in their homes to do so affordably," said Jennifer Molinsky, Senior Research Associate at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. "The model for Intergenerational homesharing that nesterly and the City are putting forward has the potential to help people afford to stay in their homes while also forging new social connections that will enrich their lives-as well as their communities."

The City and nesterly will continue to evaluate the pilot over the coming months to determine the program's success and to assess potential ways to expand it. In the meantime, residents can sign up  up to host or rent at www.nesterly.io today.

About nesterly

nesterly is an award-winning social enterprise founded by recent MIT graduates Noelle Marcus and Rachel Goor. Their model offers a unique approach to solving the housing affordability crisis by capitalizing on the millions of empty spare bedrooms across the country. nesterly's digital community connects households who have spare space with young people willing to exchange help around the house for lower rent. They were named an Idea to Change the World in 2017 by MIT's IDEAS Global Challenge, and have been featured in The Atlantic, Forbes, and NPR's Marketplace. To learn more or join the community, visit www.nesterly.io, or contact them directly at info@nesterly.net.

About Age Friendly Boston

We want to create an environment where older adults can continue to lead healthy, independent and productive lives in Boston. We're challenging the City's public agencies, businesses, cultural, educational, and religious institutions, and community groups to consider how they can change policy and practices to enhance the quality of life for our residents.

About the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Housing Innovation Lab

The Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab was facilitated by a collaboration between the Department of Neighborhood Development and the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM). The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics serves as Mayor Walsh's civic innovation group. A City agency that was formed in 2010, New Urban Mechanics pilots experiments that offer the potential to improve the quality of life for Boston residents. The Housing Innovation Lab focuses their work on reducing the cost of housing. To learn more about MONUM, follow the office on Twitter or visit their website. To learn more about the Housing Innovation Lab, follow the office on Twitter or visit their website.

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